Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at fashion and its faux pas.
Kate Spade reportedly said, “Playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends.” There’s much truth in that. Fashion is undeniably part of our lives. Magazines are devoted to it, many of us follow it, and others fall victim to it. So naturally cartoonists take aim at it.
Marisa Acocella’s cartoons often both celebrate and mock haute couture and the wealthy young women to which they are enslaved. The Fendi shopping bags in this cartoon are a nice touch.
Clothes can’t speak, yet they say something about us. Sometimes the message is subtle, leaving the wearer unsure if the meaning has been accurately conveyed to the world, as in this cartoon by Bruce Eric Kaplan:
Other times the message is quite clear, as seen in this Peter Steiner cartoon, even if the gentleman needed the assurance of a sales professional.
Sometimes fashion statements are better left unsaid. Mick Stevens offers one such example:
Before we strut the streets in all our sartorial splendor, we may want the trusted advice of a confidante as to whether an item of clothing makes us look fat/stupid/hopelessly out of touch with the current fashion trends. Liam Walsh offers a historical example of such a scenario, featuring that odd dress appendage, the bustle:
Fashion is closely tied to hipness. Indeed, it is well nigh impossible to be a hipster without de rigueur hipster attire, often heavy on the irony. Staying one step ahead of the uncool masses is challenging, a fact not lost on the young man in William Haefeli’s domestic scene:
One theme running through fashion cartoons is predicated on a wife’s exasperation at her husband’s regrettable fashion choices. In Barbara Smaller’s cartoon, the wife realized the limits of her ability to change her man, and therefore sought outside help:
Leo Cullum understood that a bad sports jacket can outlast a bad marriage. The present wife offers an excuse for her husband—sort of—while acknowledging the jacket’s separate identity as if it were a wayward child:
But even a long-suffering wife has her limits, and this spouse in Alex Gregory’s cartoon knows when it’s time to pack it in:
In a wonderful twist on this theme, Jack Ziegler focuses on a man whose fashion sense is so au courant that he scares his child. Yes, Dad’s ensemble is timeless, in the sense that it cannot be placed in a period in recorded history:
A vividly colored shirt paired with pants of a muted hue, topped off with a snappy hat have the makings of a stylish outfit. Two such outfits complement one another perfectly in this clever take on the desert island cartoon by the master of the caption-less cartoon, Seth Fleishman:
Fashion leaves some room for creativity in the world of men’s casual wear, but men’s business attire varies little from season to season—even from decade to decade. That fashion inertia may have inspired this cartoon by Peter Steiner:
Leave it to Roz Chast to consider the fashion designer, often a creative genius capable of bringing his or her vision of style to the masses—but prêt à porter in XXL may be, one might say, a stretch.